When we have been hurt, our natural tendency is to hurt back. When we have been punched, we want to punch back. When we have been criticized, we want to criticize the person who criticized us. When we have been put down, our natural tendency is to put that person down. Retaliation. Retaliating by inflicting physical or emotional or verbal pain that has been inflicted upon us.
This is a seemingly ingrained attitude we have from our earliest childhood memory. When our parents tell us “NO” on something that we want, we at that moment feel helpless in getting our desired outcome and we respond by saying “NO” to them. It’s a natural response, not necessarily a healthy one. The retaliation reaction feels good at the time but never eventuates in solving the problem. Retaliation only escalates the situation and further removes us from finding a solution that is lasting and enduring.
Looking back at Joseph we see a man who wanted and did retaliate for the pain that his brothers had caused. Joseph was a godly man and was used by God to bring about salvation for the future nation of Israel, but his resentment toward his brothers got the better of him. The story picks up where Joseph has interpreted Pharaohs’ dreams of a famine coming and what he needs to do to get ready for the famine. Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of Egypt in collecting food for 7 years so that when the 7 years of famine come, the country will be ready. Egypt is in the 2 year of famine and Joseph recognized his brothers coming from Canaan to get food.
“Joseph recognized his brothers instantly, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where are you from?” he demanded. “From the land of Canaan,” they replied. “We have come to buy food.”
But Joseph insisted, “As I said, you are spies! This is how I will test your story. I swear by the life of Pharaoh that you will never leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here! (The brothers revealed to Joseph that one brother was left behind with the father. The one brother happened to be the full brother of Joseph.) One of you must go and get your brother. I’ll keep the rest of you here in prison. Then we’ll find out whether or not your story is true. By the life of Pharaoh, if it turns out that you don’t have a younger brother, then I’ll know you are spies.” So Joseph put them all in prison for three days.”
After three days he brought all the brothers out and told them he would only take one of them and put him in prison. The others were free to leave. “Now he turned away from them and began to weep. When he regained his composure, he spoke to them again. Then he chose Simeon from among them and had him tied up right before their eyes.”
Genesis 42:7, 14-17, 24 NLT
As you continue to read further in the story, Joseph continue to be a goad to them and retaliate for all the pain and suffering he had to endure by being forced from his brothers and his dad. This retaliation lasted for several months with Simon being kept in prison.
Retaliation has short-term pleasures but there is also pain involved as we see Joseph turning away and weeping for what he was doing. On this journey, we can remove the desire for retaliation and look at our circumstances differently. Resolution of resentment is the healthiest direction to head which we will talk about in Part V.
Next: Part V-Resolution of Resentment